The Coptic Orthodox Church has a long tradition of children’s Sunday school work. The church is the largest in the country – up to 10,000 children may be involved in a single parish. Ramez, the previous General Secretary of the Bible Society of Egypt says, “The churches have been teaching children to love God’s word for a hundred years already. Children’s work is going through a harvest time now. The children who were sitting in Sunday school around 30 or 40 years ago are now church leaders, priests, bishops, and monks. So, they’re passing on the faith they received when they were children.
“These church leaders love the word of God and are eager to present the Bible’s message creatively. The Bible Society of Egypt walks alongside the churches. We produce a wide range of material for children, young people, and adults. Every year major events are organised for children…they bring Bible stories to life. Work with children is full of vitality and opportunity.”
In the outskirts west of Cairo in Boulaq El Dakrour, lies the St. Mary and St. George Coptic church, where a group of young girls have started attending Bible Society’s Post-Literacy course. This course is designed to help students practice and build on newly acquired literacy skills. They do this by reading the Bible together, and learning how it impacts their lives.
Three girls, Marina, Youstina, and Mariam, were not previously friends. Nine-year-old Marina says, “Before we started attending this class, we barely knew each other, though sometimes we played together at church.”
Yet the literacy course has drawn them together. “Now we are helping each other to perfect our reading and writing skills, and learn from the Bible together.”
Sharing the Bible together has had a big impact. “Our friendship gets deeper,” says Marina, “and we now visit each other through the week.”
Each child is encouraged to choose a favourite story and verse from the Bible. Marina’s favourite verse is 1 Samuel 3:9, “Speak to me Lord, I am listening.” She says, “I like Samuel’s story because it encourages me that the Lord talks to us from the Bible and he listens to our heart’s cries, so he listens to me, that is very awesome.”
Because of the literacy course, Marina says, “Now I have some real friends.”
Abanoub, a 17-year-old former student of an Egyptian Christian school, was gifted with a Bible from Bible Society of Egypt when he was younger. He remembers that getting his first Bible was a very meaningful event. “I have underlined several Bible passages,” says Abanoub. “At this time the most important Bible verse for me are those words Jesus said: ‘Don’t be afraid.’ These words remind me that Jesus will take me also through difficult times.”
Martha also lives on the outskirts of Cairo. Although she is a middle-aged woman married with four children, she too struggled with illiteracy. Her prayer was that she would be able to learn to read and write. When the Christian radio station she listened to regularly offered free Bibles, she requested one, and Bible Society sent her a large print Bible. Equipped with her Bible, Martha tried joining a public literacy program, which equipped her with basic skills – but she still was unable to read her Bible.
Martha’s determination didn’t let her down. She began attending school, and through her church discovered Bible Society’s Post Literacy program. It was here, finally, that Martha was able to read her Bible with increasing confidence and understanding. Through the help of the radio station (which Martha calls regularly) and Bible Society, Martha has been connected with a Bible Study group where she uses the literacy skills she worked so hard to attain.
Martha says, “The whole environment of my home has changed. I am more actively involved in my children’s lives and study, now that I am able to read and write.”
For all these people, from the children on the streets of Phnom Penh to the mother of four living in Cairo, God’s word is meeting needs for connection, friendship, and education and – most importantly – is showing the way to a future filled with hope.
You can help Christians of all ages, in every generation, tell the wonders and word of God too. Find out more here.